Manitobans ‘ecstatic’ to gather in larger groups after months of isolation

By | May 23, 2020

As RJ Padua hypes up a group of 37 people in East Kildonan’s Civic Park, he has an infectious smile on his face. He adjusts his headset microphone, and above the blaring music shouts out, “I’m so happy to see everybody in person!”

Padua runs Fit Club Winnipeg, and has had to put all of his fitness classes online since COVID-19 hit Manitoba, bringing restrictions that included limiting public gatherings to a maximum of 10 people in late March.

The province announced earlier this week that that restriction would be eased — allowing groups of 25 to gather indoors and 50 to gather outside — effective Friday.

And that meant on Saturday morning, Padua and his fitness class were back to sweating in person.

“We’re used to seeing lots of people, giving high-fives, hugging,” said Padua.

“Now it’s like, everyone is socially awkward for a bit. When the government said 25 people, that’s exciting. Fifty? We’re ecstatic.”

A group of 37 people exercise together in Civic Park in Winnipeg on Saturday morning. It’s the first weekend since late March that Manitobans were allowed to gather in groups up to 25 people inside, and 50 outside. (Sam Samson/CBC)

As the group worked out together, they aimed to stay about six metres (20 feet) apart at all times, with pylons spaced out on the hill to make sure everyone stayed a safe distance from one another.

Saturday was the first time Tracy Kramble has been in a group this big since Louis Riel Day in February.

“It felt so good,” said Kramble, who drove in from her home in St. Andrews to be part of the workout.

Tracy Kramble says she hasn’t been in a group larger than 10 people since Louis Riel Day. She drove in from St. Andrews for the outdoor group workout on Saturday morning. (Sam Samson/CBC)

“We were very cognizant of our distance between each other, and I think everybody is very respectful of that space. We’d love to high-five and hug and do all those wonderful things, but we know that right now, we just can’t.”

Tony Kusiak wore a mask during the workout, but felt “totally fine,” with the number of people in the group.

The retired Winnipegger said he’s happy to be around people again, but he’s really waiting for the province to allow larger groups so he can attend Knights of Columbus functions with hundreds of other people.

“I miss going to church. I can’t even gather with my fellow knights,” he said.

“The day things open up to bigger groups, I look forward to that.”

Tony Kasiuk wore a mask during his morning workout on Saturday. The retired Winnipegger hasn’t been in a group this size since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Manitoba. (Sam Samson/CBC)

Campers were also out this weekend, after the province’s campgrounds were allowed to reopen earlier this month.

Mark Adam Lardner took a trip out to Birds Hill Provincial Park to camp for the first time this season with his family. The Winnipegger said there were fewer people out, but he feels safe getting together with other campers, with new camping protocols and physical distancing requirements in place.

“Nobody wants to talk about the COVID thing,” he said.

“We’ve sat around fires with people, responsibly distanced, but we’re not letting it stop us from getting outside. I don’t think there’s a safer place to be.”

Mark Adam Lardner took his family camping at Birds Hill Provincial Park. The Winnipegger says he felt very safe sitting around a campfire with other campers at a safe distance. (Fernand Detillieux/SRC)

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